How the nation mourned the loss or Sycamore Gap & celebrated Tree Hugging

Written by
June 12, 2024
4 min read

The Sycamore Gap is a famous and picturesque natural feature located along Hadrian's Wall in Northumberland, England believed to be over 300 years old. The Sycamore Gap was renowned for its stunning beauty and the prominent sycamore tree that stood in a dramatic dip along Hadrian's Wall.

This natural beauty was deliberately cut down last Wednesday in an act of vandalism or perhaps even protest. This marks a devastating change from the efforts of those in previous centuries who lost their lives protecting the nature around them.

In light of this news, SKOOT has planted 300 trees to try and help fill this gap as the effects of deforestation are devastating on our climate.

Whilst the loss of the Sycamore Gap is sad for many it is really no different than the loss of 15 billion trees each year. No tree is more valuable for our planet than another as they all play a crucial role in carbon sequestration and the maintenance of ecosystems and habitats.

Hopefully, the feeling of the Sycamore Gap increases awareness of the global impacts of deforestation and increases the number of ‘tree huggers’ or climate activists who mourn the loss of nature that takes place far too casually every day.   

In the world of environmental activism, the term "tree hugger" is often used to describe individuals who passionately advocate for the protection of trees and forests, but have you ever wondered where it came from? A term that carries both affection and sometimes even a touch of ridicule. 

We felt it appropriate to pay tribute to those who dedicated their lives to safeguarding our precious forests.

The Bishnois  

In 1730, in the village of Khejarli in Rajasthan, India, the Bishnois, a community known for their deep reverence for nature and all living beings, made an extraordinary sacrifice to protect the trees in their region.

Facing the threat of mass tree felling by the Maharaja's men for the construction of a new palace, the Bishnois bravely stood in defence of their beloved Khejri trees. 

Tragically, their devotion came at a great cost as 249 men and 69 women were murdered in their determined stand. 

This historical event not only showcases the unwavering commitment of the Bishnois to environmental conservation but also played a pivotal role in shaping India's early environmental protection laws, leaving a lasting legacy of tree preservation and environmental consciousness as the royal decree was passed prohibiting the cutting of trees in the Bishnoi village. 

The Chipko Movement 

The Bishnois inspired the Chipko movement as the word "Chipko" means "to embrace" or "to hug" in Hindi, and this movement was named after the act of the Bishnois villagers. The Chipko Movement was a response to rampant deforestation and the exploitation of forest resources in 1970 in the Himalayan hills in the north of India. 

Local communities, particularly in the state of Uttarakhand, recognized the vital role that forests played in their lives, providing essential resources such as firewood, clean water, and fertile soil. They also understood the importance of forests in maintaining ecological balance and preventing landslides and floods in the fragile Himalayan ecosystem.

A group of local peasant women threw their arms around trees that were marked to be cut down, marking the start of the non-violent protest. One of the most prominent figures in the Chipko Movement was Gaura Devi, a village woman who became an icon of environmental activism. In 1974, Gaura Devi led a group of women in her village, Reni, to hug the trees that were marked for felling. Their peaceful protest successfully halted the logging operation, and their actions inspired similar movements in other parts of India.

Another notable figure was Sundarlal Bahuguna, an environmentalist and Gandhian activist who played a crucial role in raising awareness about the ecological importance of forests. Bahuguna's hunger strikes and impassioned speeches galvanized support for the Chipko Movement and led to the imposition of a 15-year ban on the felling of trees above a certain altitude in the Himalayas.

Whilst the term "tree hugger" may have originated as a description of the courageous individuals who hugged trees in the Bishnois and Chipko Movements it has since evolved to encompass a global community of environmental advocates; it is a term intrinsically linked to climate change and deforestation and communities mission to protect trees and forests.

However, it is devastating to see that the historical attitude of forest and tree preservation has not been carried by everyone into the present day, encompassed in the recent felling of the Sycamore Gap. 

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Written by
June 12, 2024
4 min read